The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Peace—in the (Intact) Family Circle

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

Everyone wants peace, but those who voice their desire for peace most loudly are typically seated on the political left. However, a study of the social circumstances most conducive to peace highlights the importance of a social pattern—namely, the intact family—most often affirmed by those on the political right.

The national media gave front-page coverage to the state-by-state ranking included in the 2012 Peace Index released in April by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an independent, nonprofit research organization with offices in Sydney, New York, and Washington, D.C. Journalists paid close attention to the Institute’s statistical judgment—based on statistics for violent crime and other measures of civic peace—that Maine is America’s most pacific state and Louisiana is the least pacific. Journalists likewise took note of the economic issues the Institute outlined in its analysis: “Violence and violence containment cost the average taxpayer $3,257 each year,” the analysts explained. “If all the states in the U.S. had the same level of peacefulness as the most peaceful state (Maine), the total economic effect would be over 274 billion dollars.”

Journalistic attention waned, however, when researchers teased the theoretical implications out of their findings. Consequently, not too many newspaper editors reported the reasoning of the Institute researchers, who explained that “peaceful states” tend to offer their residents “more economic opportunities, better provision of basic services and higher levels of educational attainment” than do violent states. Nor did most editors share with their readers much information about the “strong correlation between social capital and peace” because that would have meant explaining the term “social capital” as a theoretical composite of the aggregate impulses manifest in more peaceful states tend to “a better sense of community, and higher rates of volunteerism.”

But one of the findings in the fine print deserved to be trumpeted loudly: strong families foster social peace. In their statistical analysis of the various economic, political, and social characteristics that accounted for the relative levels of peace and violence in the fifty states, the researchers stumbled across this politically inconvenient truth: “The single strongest correlation was with the percentage of children living in single parent families.” That is, states where the percentage of children living in single-parent families ran low were peaceful; states where the percentage of children living in single-parent families ran high were violent.

This important finding apparently comes as unwelcome news for the researchers themselves. For though they acknowledge this finding, they entirely omit it in their summary outline of the “eight key structures of peace, which when in place, should allow a country to reduce and avoid direct violence.” Indeed, not one of these eight structures—certainly not “well-functioning government,” nor “equitable distribution of resources,” nor “acceptance of the rights of others,” nor “ free flow of information,” nor “sound business environment,” nor “good relation with neighbours,” nor “high levels of education,” nor “low levels of corruption”—holds much promise of reducing the number of children living in single-parent families by strengthening marriage and family. Truth is, a marriage-subverting left-wing orthodoxy is now prevalent among social scientists who do analyses like the one the Institute just released, so prevalent that these avowed pacifists would probably fight like hell rather than acknowledge the need for a new marriage-centered political agenda. 

(The Institute for Economics and Peace, 2012 United States Peace Index, April 2012, pp. 11, 15, 29, 36.)